Wednesday 28 February 2018

Saving Africa by N Timoleon Amessa

Saving Africa by N Timoleon Amessa
Published in the UK by Matador in June 2017.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Saving Africa investigates the root causes of underdevelopment in developing countries, particularly in post-colonial Africa. It also identifies the factors that inhibit progress: the cultural barriers to development; the political instability and the inappropriate choice of political system that has hampered the development of so many African countries; the economic problems plaguing Africa, especially in the three main sectors of the economy: agriculture, industry, and the service economy. 

It looks at the effect on the social life of African people and cultural factors, such as the difficulty in reconciling traditional customs and practices with the western way of life, and considers how the economy and political systems currently in place add to these problems. 

It also uses the case of Cote D’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) as a prime example, and demonstrates how the legacy of colonial rule, and the scale of corruption among the political elite, coupled with lack of education, poor infrastructure, and rampant inefficiencies that constitute the problematic life in every African country. 

In response to this, it sets out a blueprint, a comprehensive roadmap for evolution. If implemented with commitment it will allow the people of Africa to enjoy the benefits of living in a modern society, with a working economy, a stable political system, and a culture that both preserves the best of its traditions and customs, and takes advantage of the opportunities offered by Western society. 

Saving Africa shows how one can transform the heavy legacy of centuries of colonial rule from a contemporary curse into a real future for Africa and its people.

I was disappointed by this book because, although it starts out with a few interesting-looking ideas, it doesn't really progress from that point. Amessa has strong opinions on the political direction Africa in its entirety should take however actually getting to those root ideas in this book is a slog. The writing is very long-winded. Every opinion is repeated several times and Amessa seems to continually turn in circles so the book is at least twice as long as it feels that it should be! I would have liked facts and statistics to back up the author's statements too. Sweeping untrue generalisations such as there being no African entrepreneurs - I have lent to dozens via Kiva - or that Britain is far more welcoming to immigrants than France - has he read the Daily Mail? - led me to doubt other of Amessa's assertions. I did struggle through pretty much to the end of Saving Africa, but am not convinced that I am much the wiser on this subject as a result.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by N Timolean Amessa / Politics / Books from the Ivory Coast

Monday 26 February 2018

A Matter Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance + Giveaway

A Matter Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance
(The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance, Book 1) 
Published in America by Golden Bear Creative Works in April 2013.

I read A Matter Of Temperance back in 2014. I am transferring my review over here now to coincide with Ichabod's Spotlight and Giveaway of The Two Faces Of Temperance, the tenth book in this series, which I featured on Literary Flits a couple of weeks ago. Scroll down for a second chance to enter the Giveaway!

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Hello, is anyone there?”
“This is Ichabod Temperance, transmitting from the year 1875.”
“Do you read me?”
“Oh my Goodness! We've got trouble, y'all!”
“Ever since that strange comet passed our world, not only have there been more than just an overwhelming amount of steam and spring inventions popping up all over Earth, but there also have been uncanny monster sightings as well! Well, almost sightings, as these inter-dimensional, over-legged, eyeball-clustered beasties are nearly invisible to the human eye! That is where my own enhanced inventiveness has gotten me into misadventure as I alone have created a device that allows me to see the hippo-sized craw-daddies.”
“Maybe Fate had a hand in my goggle development, for it led to my meeting the most beautiful girl in the world. Now it's up to me and Miss Plumtartt to save our planet from being gobbled up gone!”

Ichabod Temperance undertakes a fantastical adventure when he first rescues one Persephone Plumtartt from clutches of an invisible otherworldly monster. Our hero has a knack for this kind of chivalry as he continues to repeat the feat, firstly across a slightly-geographically-redesigned Europe, and then across the rest of the world. We read his story from two viewpoints, both his and also Miss Plumtartt's. Their characters are not strongly defined so as the chapters rush past, I didn't always know which one was narrating. It doesn't really matter as this book is all about action. Villains are cartoonish and allies are named but not created as defined people. On reflection, this is a little disappointing as I would have invested more in the quest had more words been expended on character rather than fighting. I liked the initial inventions which are perfectly steampunk, however as the book goes along, more and more items are invented but not described so imagining what the author means is tricky. Also the perils are often surprisingly easily despatched and occasionally seem thrown in for no apparent reason - why were the sirens included? Why the pearl?

For me, A Matter of Temperance felt a little unfinished, but it's a good debut. It is a fun fast-paced romp and I went on to enjoy reading more of this series.

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Open internationally until the 4th March, the prize is one signed paperback copy of The Two Faces Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance which will be sent directly to the winner by the author himself.
Good luck!

Signed book - The Two Faces of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ichabod Temperance / Steampunk fiction / Books from America

Wednesday 21 February 2018

A Dip In My Ocean by A G Stranger

A Dip In My Ocean by A G Stranger
Self published in July 2017.

A for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author via the Authors Needing Reviews Goodreads group

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ahmed Ghrib ( Pen name: A.G. Stranger) is a Tunisian engineering student, writer and amateur guitarist. He is the author of " He wrote Lily ". This a collection of his poems that englobe different themes ranging from love, heartbreak to life and healing. Different colorful backgrounds on which the poems were written have been carefully chosen; The powerful sceneries will help you not just "dip" in the writer's "ocean" but rather immerse yourself in the depth his words and their meaning.

A short read at just forty-four pages, A Dip In My Ocean is nonetheless a lovely little book that poetically charts the course of a relationship from deep love to the pain of separation, despair to acceptance and the overcoming of grief. The poems are grouped thematically so the reader can either dip into the appropriate theme as wanted or do as I did and read the whole book effectively as an epic poem telling a story.

As well as Ghrib's words, I liked that this is also an illustrated volume with photographed scenes behind the poetry on every page. These show hand hearts or ocean vistas and feature colour palettes appropriate to the mood of the poetry. It's a lovely idea that I think works well and raises A Dip In My Ocean from poetry to an art-poetry book that might well make a good gift for a friend in need of emotional support at the end of a relationship.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by A G Stranger / Poetry / Books from Tunisia

Sunday 18 February 2018

Breathe Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Breathe Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Published in America by Unnerving in October 2017.

B for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author via the Authors Needing Reviews Goodreads Group

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It's a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you'll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can't find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

Breathe Breathe isn't a particularly long book - it's only about 175 pages - and I sat down expecting to read it within a few hours. However it actually took me over a week of dipping into the poems and stories in order to be able to finish it. Don't be mistaken in thinking I didn't enjoy the read. I did! (Although perhaps 'enjoy' isn't the best word to choose.) I found the intense emotion difficult to sustain so, instead of my usual cover-to-cover devouring, Breathe Breathe has been a process of reading one or two poems or stories and then taking time to think them over before returning. It's rare that a collection of short works gets through to me so deeply. All praise to Al-Mehairi for revealing so much of her literary vulnerability in this way.

As with any collection of course, there were pieces that I connected with more strongly than others so I am going to pick out a few of my favourites to mention here. If (when!) you buy this book, be sure to linger over the Fear poems The Heirloom and Earl Grey Tea, and the Pain poem Nature's Salve. I loved the imagery and sense of menace in these. As a woman, I found the short stories to be essentially horror tales. Occasional clunky dialogue aside, I loved their chilling atmospheres and Dandelion Yellow especially is excellent - and heart-breaking.

Breathe Breathe should probably come with a series of trigger warnings. Many of the poems and stories speak of gender violence and abusive relationships and Al-Mehairi isn't coy with her phrases. Sensitive and still-damaged souls should perhaps get a friend to read this through first. Personally I found the read disturbing and powerful and memorable.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Poetry / Books from America

Friday 9 February 2018

Babs 2 Brisbane by Barbara Haddrill

Babs 2 Brisbane by Barbara Haddrill
Published in the UK by the Centre for Alternative Technology Publications in February 2009.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Bought during my visit to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once in a while fate sets you off in a direction you never expected. When Barbara Haddrill was asked to be a bridesmaid at her friend's wedding in Australia she decided to take the most eco-friendly route possible. Giving up on the easy option - a long haul flight that would have got her to Brisbane in 24 hours - she set off on what was to become an incredible nine-month overland journey. This journey changed her life and let to a worldwide debate about air travel. Feted and attacked by journalists and internet bloggers she became the centre of a media storm that threatened to overshadow the whole trip. Half way through her epic adventure, stranded in the Australian outbreak, reliant on the good will of truckers to get her past a dangerous cyanide spill, she fell to a low point of emotional exhaustion, leading her to question the whole point of her journey. Can one person really make a difference?

The Centre for Alternative Technology has the best niche bookshop I have ever seen. I think they must have copies of pretty much every green living book there is so it was tough to make a decision as to which one to buy. As a wanderer myself, albeit on a much smaller scale, Barbara Haddrill's memoir of her overland journey from Wales to Australia instantly appealed. I don't remember the media frenzy at the time of the journey itself - nearly a decade ago now - but it is interesting to think about how much has and hasn't changed in the intervening years.

Haddrill has a very engaging writing style which kept me glued to this book almost from the moment I started reading until I turned to the last page. It's 400 pages, but with a scattering of quirky hand-drawn illustrations and a good sized font! I admit to being overwhelmed simply at the thought of such an ambitious undertaking for myself. Haddrill herself gets by with a mix of good research, good fortune, and the kindness of strangers. Babs 2 Brisbane is a memoir that rekindled my faith in people! I loved reading about aspects of her journey such as the Trans-Siberian railway which I would love to travel on myself. I'm not so sure about the lengthy sea crossings though.

I would recommend Babs 2 Brisbane as essential reading for anyone considering their own travelling experience. Haddrill includes lots of practical information as well as inspiring her readers to reconsider assumptions we have about getting from place to place and our interactions with people through whose countries we pass. Even as individuals, our choices add up to a significant impact on many aspects of the world around us and we might often deprive ourselves of great experiences by (metaphorically or literally) flying straight past.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Barbara Haddrill / Biography and memoir / Books from Wales